Tips on using ProZ.com from my personal experience (part one)

ProZ.com is a networking site for translators. It can be used to find new clients, apply for jobs, ask terminology questions, and much more. It can be a great resource for freelance translators and interpreters, especially if you are willing to pay for membership, but there are also some pitfalls to be avoided. This blog post offers some tips from my personal experience of using the site as a paying member.

I joined ProZ.com about four years ago, and started paying for membership about three years ago. The site has been a great resource for me as a number of my clients have come through this channel. Clients, usually agencies, can search for freelance translators in the site’s database once a profile has been set up and the freelancer’s basic information has been entered, e.g. language pair and specialisms. As many ProZ.com representatives will tell you (as I’ve learnt from attending their webinars): most of the jobs offered to freelancers come about by the client/agency searching the translator and interpreter directories and reviewing profiles. So my first tip of this blog post is: keep your ProZ.com profile up to date.

ProZ.com features a terminology database: KudoZ. Answering questions on KudoZ also helps to improve your ranking in the directories: the more KudoZ points you have, the higher up in the rankings you will be placed. So if you feel confident that you can suggest an appropriate term, propose an answer. Be prepared to back up your suggestion with references and links as well.

If a term comes up in your translation and you can’t find a target equivalent for it, KudoZ is a Mecca for obscure and/or technical terms. Be sure to use the “Term search” function to look for the term before you ask a terminology question – answerers don’t like it if they find a similar entry in the database already (and who can blame them?). Once this search returns no results and you decide to ask a terminology question on KudoZ, try to provide as much information as you can about the term without breaking confidentiality rules: a couple of sentences of the source text to give context (redacting any client-specific information and personal data), the target audience, and intended use of the text can come in very handy for someone trying to help you.

When starting to collaborate with an agency, the ProZ.com Blue Board is a great source of information. Enter the agency’s name, and a rating between 1 and 5 (1 being “do not waste your time” and 5 being “no qualms”) appears with brief feedback from translators. Always check this rating before taking work from a new source: it may save you time and stress if it turns out your new favourite client is a non-payer. However, these ratings should sometimes be taken with a pinch of salt. Sometimes you see a page full of excellent ratings, but the company turns out to be a low payer, or sometimes you’ll find the odd bad rating that was just a one-off.

The site also has a rating system for freelancers called the Willingness to Work Again (WWA) rating. Here, potential clients can see feedback from some of your clients. It is shown on your freelancer profile, so potential clients will be able to see the number of positive/negative entries. They will also be able to see more detailed feedback if they click on the WWA’s hyperlink. This is a great way to showcase your strengths, and to attract new clients. So request feedback from as many sources as possible.

This blog has presented you with some tips that focus on the more positive aspects of ProZ.com. Stay tuned for part two, which offers some advice on the more negative aspects of the site.

Are you a translator who has used ProZ.com? Do you have anything to add?

Tips on getting into the translation profession

The translation industry is a notoriously tough industry to get into when you first start out. If you plump for working with agencies, many ask that translators have at least 5 years’ experience before they can be added to the agency’s books. If you decide to target direct clients then you have to stand out from everybody else in the industry, including those with decades of experience. Here are some tips to consider just before launching your career and when you’re first starting out:

1) Get a degree… and use it Whether in the languages that you want to translate from, or in a subject that could ultimately become your specialism, a degree is a major advantage to translators. Having a degree in a field other than languages and translation can also work in your favour as that field could become your specialism in translation.

2) Get translator training Be it a master’s degree in translation from a university or another qualification such as the IoL’s DipTrans, some form of training in the principles and practices of translation is absolutely vital in this industry.

3) Get as much experience as you can There are several ways to gain experience in the translation industry. You could take on a translation internship (many translation agencies are on the lookout for interns for 3-12 month placements) or you could volunteer as a translator with a not-for-profit website or company requiring translation (I volunteered with Watching America a few years ago. There are a number of options out there, and the more experience you have, the better.)

4) Exposure There are many sites out there aimed at online networking, and there are a few that are specific to the translation industry. Sites like LinkedIn are more general, whereas ProZ.com and TranslatorsCafe.com are specific to the translation and interpreting industry. It’s good to have profiles and be active on these sites (e.g. posting in the forums, asking terminology questions), as potential clients often use these sites to find new freelancers.

5) Specialise While you may accept whatever job lands in your inbox when starting out as a translator, it’s best to quickly suss out what you like and what you’re good at, then focus on gaining work in that field. That way you can focus your efforts on knowing your potential source material inside out, rather than being just relatively good in many subject areas.

6) Further training Once you’ve got a foot on the ladder, make sure you keep up-to-date with professional training. There are always ways in which you can improve as a professional – after all, we all have weaknesses. Webinars are an excellent tool for improving skills. My two favourite sites for this are ProZ.com and The Alexandria Project. They both offer insightful webinars on a wide range of translation-based topics.

Are you a translator? Feel free to add your tips for getting into the translation profession in the comments section below!

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Hannah